How To Get Rid Of Sweat Pimples

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June 27, 2023

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There are so many reasons to fall in love with working out, from the feel-good endorphin rush to the confidence boost and the wonders it can do for your health, strength and fitness. But one thing that definitely doesn’t make the list of fitness perks? Sweat pimples.

Sweat pimples are a pesky skin issue that affects many people, and they can appear on many different areas of your body such as your face and neck, back, chest and breast area, or even your buttocks and legs. While some pimples and acne are caused by hormones or genetics, sweat pimples are caused by the clogging of your pores. 

Skin irritation and inflammation of any kind is never a fun time, so here’s what you need to know about the connection between sweat and spots and what you can do. 

Does sweat cause pimples? 

Although getting sweaty can trigger pimples or a breakout for many people, sweat isn’t the true culprit here, meaning you don’t have to stop exercising to get your skin back under control! 

Many people assume sweat is what clogs your pores and leads to a breakout, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, that’s not the case. In fact, it’s when your sweat mixes with bacteria, oil, makeup or dirt that’s already sitting on your skin and then clogs your pores that you’ve got yourself a recipe for inflammation or spots. Sweat also has a more favourable pH for bacteria to grow, which can aggravate the problem further.

The key isn’t to try and prevent sweat, it’s to maintain great hygiene throughout every stage of your workout routine to help keep your skin as clean as possible.

We would hate for you to ditch your workouts all together because of a few sweat pimples, so here are 15 things you can do to keep your skin clear, no matter how much you Sweat.

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Before your workout

Wear minimal or no makeup 

If you’re sensitive to breakouts, especially following a workout, it can help to exercise without any makeup on, or choose lightweight, oil-free products that won’t clog your pores.

Tend to exercise at the end of your day? Quickly removing your makeup when you get changed into your activewear could make a big difference.

Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing

Clogged pores and sweat pimples can be aggravated by the friction of tight clothing or lack of airflow as your body temperature rises. Wearing loose-fitting clothes can reduce the chance of bacteria, sweat and oil being trapped while also encouraging airflow.

Opting for moisture-wicking fabrics is another way to draw the sweat away from your skin and towards the outer layer of your clothing where it can quickly evaporate. 

Drink plenty of water

Some people assume putting more water into your body would cause you to sweat more, but staying hydrated is key if you want to keep your body cool and your skin hydrated. When your skin becomes dry (which is common if you’re working out a lot!), the overproduction of oils can also contribute to breakouts. 

Protect your skin if you’re heading outside

Immersing yourself in nature has many benefits, but being exposed to the elements during a Sweat session can definitely affect your skin. Without protection, your skin can become dry, burnt or irritated. On a sunny day, apply an oil-free sunscreen, an SPF lip balm, and a hat if you need it. 

Choose a suitable hairstyle

One of the fastest ways to spread oil and bacteria is by working out with a hairstyle that falls out or constantly needs readjusting - meaning sweaty strands are getting stuck to your skin or you’re regularly touching your face and increasing the spread of bacteria and dirt. Protect your hair from sweat and keep it away from your face with hairstyles such as braids, twists or ponytails, or use clips or headbands for shorter lengths. 

Think about your workout environment 

Many of us don’t have the freedom to work out at any time of day, but if you can, try to avoid exercising during the hottest or most humid time if you want to reduce perspiration, skin dryness, or sun damage if you’re heading outdoors. 

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During your workout

Use a clean sweat towel

Keeping a towel on hand during every workout is an easy way to quickly remove sweat from your skin as you exercise instead of letting it sit on your skin where it can start to clog your pores. Just remember to wash your towels after each use to minimise the spread of bacteria, and if your skin is easily aggravated, try to gently pat any sweat dry rather than rub. 

Wipe down equipment

Each time you use a new piece of equipment, make a point of giving it a wipe down before and after - especially if you’re in a shared gym space. Touching your skin after touching equipment is a fast way to spread bacteria, whether you’re using free weights, resistance bands, larger gym machines or just a yoga mat! You’d be surprised how often you wipe your upper lip, pull hair away from your forehead or scratch an itch during your workouts. And if you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your yoga mat, take this as your reminder.

Try to avoid touching your face 

Speaking of touching your face, do your best to minimise contact between your hands and the rest of your body and face until after your workout when you’ve washed your hands. This is another reason a clean sweat towel is so handy! 

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After your workout

Have a shower as soon as possible

The best way to minimise skin inflammation and sweat pimples post-workout is to shower as soon as possible to wash off any sweat, dirt and bacteria. If you’re prone to sweat pimples, you may want to use an antibacterial soap, too! For those who find their breakouts are usually around the hairline, aligning your hair washes with your workouts and keeping it off your face between washes can help.

Feeling sweaty but don’t have time for a proper shower? We recommend washing your face and having a pack of antibacterial wipes on hand to freshen up until your shower. 

Change into fresh clothes

One of the most common post-workout mistakes which can lead to skin irritation and breakouts is leaving your sweaty clothes on for too long. If your clothes are tight against your skin this can trap sweat, cause friction and irritation and increase the chance of your pores becoming clogged.

Wash your activewear regularly

No one likes a big pile of washing, but activewear is one thing you should wash after every wear if you’re sweaty. Even if you’re not breaking a sweat, you should wash your workout gear after two wears at max. This is because dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria can still build up on the fabric without sweat. 

If you wear accessories that are tight against your skin such as headbands, hats, running belts or armbands to hold devices, these items should be part of your regular washing cycle too, as bacteria can quickly accumulate and transfer between to your hands and face.  

Regularly change your bedding 

Outside of the realm of workouts and sweaty activewear, there’s one other area of fabric your body and face regularly come into contact with - your bedding and pillows. 

For those who shower in the morning, sweat and oils can easily transfer to your bedding, and even if you prefer a bedtime shower, dead skin cells, sweat and bacteria can still build up on your bedding, so putting them through the wash each week is a great habit to get into for your skin health! 

Use oil-free, non-comedogenic products

To reduce your chance of sweat pimples, using skincare products that won’t clog your pores is your best bet. This could mean an oil-free cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen, or opting for products tested by dermatologists if your skin is particularly sensitive.

Don’t poke or pick at your skin

We know how tempting it is to touch your face when you’re breaking out, but… don’t. 

Not only can you further aggravate the area or cause scarring or broken skin, but you can also transfer even more bacteria.  

Sweat is about so much more than your workouts

Feel your best - inside AND out

Keen to work out but hate breaking out? Luckily, sweat itself isn’t the cause of sweat pimples (despite the name), and there are several things you can try to keep your skin clean and clear, no matter how much you’re sweating!

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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